National Toxic Substance Incidents Program

In 2010, the National Toxic Substance Incidents Program replaced the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance which was established in 1990 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry continues the National Toxic Substance Incidence Program, which consists of three parts: state-based surveillance, the National Database. and Assessment of Chemical Exposures.

From 1993 to 2013, as part of these federal programs, the New York State Department of Health collected data on hazardous substances spills/releases and their public health consequences. The goal was to prevent morbidity (injury) and mortality (death) through interventions identified by analyzing the data. To reach this goal, staff collected the following information on each qualifying emergency event:

  • name and quantity of the hazardous substance(s) released,
  • cause and circumstances of the release,
  • number of victims and their classification (employees, responders, students or the general public),
  • number and types of injuries,
  • medical outcome, and
  • any decontamination procedures or evacuation activities.

This information was regularly analyzed to identify both unique problems and patterns that contributed to spills/releases. The data were used to identify intervention opportunities consistent with the goal, such as emergency response planning, additional worker training or improved equipment maintenance.

Staff collected spill/release data primarily from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Spill Hotline and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Reports were also obtained from the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center, the U.S. Department of Transportation Hazardous Materials Incident Reporting System, wireless responder alerting services and the media. To gather specific information about each incident, staff contacted personnel directly involved in the response or knowledgeable about the event such as responders, company representatives or medical professionals. To ensure an informed public health response, staff provided pertinent incident information to local public health officials and others.

The two surveillance programs provided a valuable repository of information about hazardous substance events in New York State. The data were used to inform law enforcement and public health officials about the hazards of clandestine drug laboratories, to raise awareness in the responder community about exposure to hazardous substances and the resulting injuries, and to develop educational materials about mercury for primary and secondary schools. Data also benefited emergency preparedness activities, such as planning for future responses and training personnel by using case studies.

The Partnership to Reduce Mercury in Schools

Mercury and schools is a risky combination! Mercury may be found in many different places throughout a school, and a spill can result in health risks and costly clean-up efforts. A packet of nine brochures was developed to help school personnel identify mercury sources and reduce or remove the risk of a mercury spill. The materials were developed in cooperation with many partners interested in a healthy school environment and are intended to provide practical and cost-effective strategies.

Published Articles, 2004-2014